Singapore laying the groundwork to bounce back after crisis
New task force to identify trends and respond to structural shifts in economy
Even as Singapore wages war on the coronavirus, the country wants to build resilience and be ready to seize opportunities that are emerging, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.
That is why, apart from the billions set aside to help Singaporean families, businesses and workers tide over the immediate turmoil, an Emerging Stronger task force is being set up to review how Singapore's economy can bounce back from the crisis and build "new sources of dynamism".
The Singapore Together movement will also be given the new role of emphasising social resilience. The movement was set up last June for the Government and Singaporeans to work together on policy solutions.
"Our economy is hit on so many fronts that it is not possible to just restore the status quo," said Mr Heng, adding that the pandemic will reshape the world and amplify global structural shifts already taking place.
"Our best response now is to build resilience - in our economy and society."
The Emerging Stronger task force will be chaired by Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, as well as PSA International group chief executive Tan Chong Meng.
Task force members will include business leaders with experience in areas such as digitisation and connectivity. Their job will be to look ahead, identifying trends and responding to structural shifts in the economy.
Mr Heng added that the fight will go on for a long time yet, with things set to get more difficult before they improve.
Meanwhile, the Revised Supplementary Supply Bill - which allows the Government to set aside funds for the $5.1 billion Solidarity Budget and the $48.4 Resilience Budget - was passed yesterday as heightened social distancing measures kicked in.
Rounding up the debate on the Supplementary Budget, Mr Heng told the House the current crisis is unprecedented - as is the Government's decision to roll out, in 48 days, three aid packages with the Unity, Resilience and Solidarity budgets.
LARGEST AMOUNT EVER
Nearly $60 billion has been set aside to help Singapore ride out the storm - the largest amount the country has ever spent in a financial year.
The President has given her in-principle support to the Government in drawing up to $21 billion from the reserves.
Singapore's approach - to save jobs and keep businesses running, as well as to help families put food on the table - aims to help build economic and social resilience.
This is the best response to the pandemic, Mr Heng said.
For companies, this means preventing viable businesses from being "permanently damaged" and helping them to preserve their capabilities to recover.
And for Singaporeans, this means saving jobs and easing cash flow needs, especially for the most vulnerable.
Even non-citizens - such as adult permanent residents with Singaporean parents, children or spouses and long-term visit pass holders with Singaporean spouses - may apply for a one-time Solidarity Payment of $300, he said.
In his 70-minute speech, Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, pointed out that half of humanity is now under lockdown and the global supply chain has been disrupted.
"There is hope that as the crisis deepens, people around the world will find the need to come together and be single-minded about winning this battle," Mr Heng said.
Singapore will need to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic on a "sustainable basis" as the country may feel the aftermath of the outbreak for a long time, he added.
This means tapping past reserves again if the crisis deepens.
"While we must make plans, and we are, at this hour, let us focus our minds fully on making the best use of this very unprecedented Budget, to build social and economic resilience."